Derek Chauvin set to go on trial over killing of George Floyd

Opening arguments to begin on Monday as former Minneapolis police officer denies charges

Police and National Guard troops stand watch outside of the Hennepin County Government Center while activists march past on March 28, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The activists were demonstrating before the start of trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of murder in the death of George Floyd. Photograph: Getty Images

Police and National Guard troops stand watch outside of the Hennepin County Government Center while activists march past on March 28, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The activists were demonstrating before the start of trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of murder in the death of George Floyd. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The trial of a former Minneapolis police officer over the death of George Floyd gets underway in the Minnesota city on Monday.

Derek Chauvin (45) has denied charges of second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter over the death of the 46-year-old Black man after he was detained on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill last May.

Mr Floyd was declared dead after Mr Chauvin pressed his knee against Mr Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes. Video of the incident shows Mr Floyd saying “I can’t breathe” as he was handcuffed and lying on his stomach.

Prosecutors have not said when they will play the video, but legal experts expect it to be early in the trial — maybe even in the prosecution’s opening statement — as they seek to remind jurors of what is at the heart of their case.

Mr Chauvin is charged with unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Almost all of the jurors selected during more than two weeks of questioning said they had seen at least parts of the video, and several acknowledged it gave them at least a somewhat negative view of Mr Chauvin. But they said they could set that aside.

The trial is expected to last about four weeks at the courthouse in downtown Minneapolis, which has been fortified with concrete barriers, fencing, and barbed wire. City and state leaders are determined to prevent a repeat of riots that followed Mr Floyd’s death, and National Guard troops have already been mobilised.

The key questions at the trial will be whether Mr Chauvin caused Mr Floyd’s death and whether his actions were reasonable.

For the unintentional second-degree murder charge, prosecutors have to prove Mr Chauvin’s conduct was a “substantial causal factor” in Mr Floyd’s death, and that Mr Chauvin was committing felony assault at the time.

For third-degree murder, they must prove that Mr Chauvin’s actions caused Mr Floyd’s death, and were reckless and without regard for human life. The manslaughter charge requires proof that Mr Chauvin caused Mr Floyd’s death through negligence that created an unreasonable risk.

After jury instructions, prosecutors will begin with their opening statement, providing a road map of their case and telling jurors what they can expect to see at the trial, said Mike Brandt, a local defence lawyer who is watching the case closely. They will outline what is to come, highlighting key witnesses.

Mr Chauvin’s defence lawyer, Eric Nelson, will probably use his opening statement to push back on what prosecutors say, and tell jurors that medical testimony and use of force experts will show a different view.

Fifteen jurors will appear in court on Monday when the case starts, but Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill said the 15th was chosen simply to ensure that 14 would be in place once the trial begins. He is expected to dismiss that person immediately.

Two of the remaining 14 will be alternates, but the court has not made clear which ones.

Jury selection took more than two weeks, as jurors were questioned individually about their views on police, racial justice issues and pre-trial publicity in the case. – PA